Deion Belue entered The University of Alabama last January, a few days after the Crimson Tide had its final game of the 2011 season. That 21-0 victory over LSU in the BCS National Championship Game enabled Bama to finish first in the nation, but it also marked the end of Alabama careers for three fine cornerbacks – first round draft choice Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie, the 2011 starters, and back-up Phelon Jones.
Since last spring, Belue has been a first team cornerback for the Tide.
Belue, a 5-11, 180-pound native of Tuscumbia, first signed with Alabama out of Deshler High in 2010. However, he was forced to start his college career at Northeast Mississippi Community College, and signed again with Alabama after last season.
Bama Coach Nick Saban signs a junior college transfer from time-to-time, and he expects them to be quick contributors. Belue has been true to that mission. Saban has mentioned Belue on numerous occasions since he started spring practice.
Indeed, Belue caused a stir when he intercepted a pass near the goalline and returned it for a touchdown in the first Bama scrimmage last spring. Belue said that didn't give him extra confidence about playing at a new level. "I had the confidence the whole time," he said. "It was just the fact I got the pick six in the first scrimmage that gave me a little edge."
Belue has had other firsts this season. He got his first start in Alabama's season-opening 41-14 win over Michigan in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Last week he played in his first Southeastern Conference game as the Crimson Tide defeated Arkansas, 52-0, in Fayetteville. He called the SEC opner "a great experience."
In between, against Western Kentucky, Belue got his first interception in a Bama uniform. He picked it off at the Hilltoppers 40 early in the third quarter and ran it to the 25. A facemask penalty moved the ball to the 12 and led to Bama's third touchdown in a 35-0 win.
"I was just there at the right time," Belue said.
He has played on a defense that has been pretty salty, including back-to-back shutouts. Alabama has been so impressive in the first three games that the Tide is a runaway leader in the early national polls.
This week, Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium to host Florida Atlantic. Kickoff will be at 4 p.m. CDT.
Belue ranks fifth on the Crimson Tide tackle list with eight primary stops and two assists. He has two tackles for loss. In addition to the pass interception, he has broken up a pass, and he has caused a fumble.
Belue was a second team junior college All-America last year, but said playing at Alabama had a new element of game speed.
Being a cornerback at Alabama means getting coached each day by Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who works as something of a position coach for cornerbacks in practice. Belue said Saban does not chastise the defensive backs more than other players.
"He treats everyone the same," Belue said. "He gets on to everybody. If something goes wrong, he's going to let them know."
Belue likes playing for Saban. "You've always got to be at your best," he said. "You cannot take a day off. It's part of the way he coaches, and it just makes you better."
The secondary had been projected as a possible weak point for Bama this year. In addition to the lost cornerbacks, two-time All-America safety Mark Barron also had to be replaced in the defensive backfield.
Belue said the Tide secondary had been improving. "We've been paying attention to details and getting our calls together and we're starting to bond with each other and just making everything a smooth transition."
There's another first in store for Deion Belue, and that will be when he meets someone who doesn't think that legendary Florida State and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders is his favorite NFL player. Actually, it's former Georgia star Champ Bailey.
Video by Laken Litman.